Organizations fight to stop logging in Boise National Forest

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Two threatened species—the bull trout and the black-backed woodpecker—are at risk due to a logging project by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in the Boise National Forest. According to Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and Brian Ertz, attorney and adjunct professor of environmental ethics at Boise State, the Forest Service called for logging 68.5 million board feet of timber, or over 17,000 logging truck loads on 14,753 acres in the north and south regions of Lowman, Idaho. This started in the beginning of August.

According to Garrity, this project will harm the forest and set back efforts to recover threatened and endangered species. This project also violates multiple laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.

“Watersheds within the project area are occupied by a threatened species, mainly the bull trout,” Ertz said. He explained how this concept can be applied to watersheds—areas of land that drain into a body of water, such as a river, lake, stream or bay. “Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has designated many of the subwatersheds in the project area as critical habitat for the bull trout.”

Graphic by Axel Quartarone.

Furthermore, developing more roads in a watershed may mean bull trout will struggle to survive since they require cold, clean and connected waterways, Garrity wrote in an email.

“(The Forest Service) will bulldoze over ten miles of new roads, building into watersheds that already contain 290 miles of roads,” Garrity wrote. “All of the logging and road-building on fragile, post-fire soil will send tons of sediment into streams and rivers, which, in the Pioneers, have been federally designated as bull trout ‘critical habitat.’”

Ertz also represents the environmental groups WildLands Defense and the Alliance For The Wild Rockies that are suing the services risking the lives of the fish. Both Ertz and Garrity stressed the importance of critical habitat post-fire.

“The Pioneer Wildfire in 2015 was one of the largest wildfires that Idaho has ever seen. At the time, it cost the U.S. Forest Service over $100 million to fight and implement restoration activities associated with the fire,” Ertz said.

The Forest Service are logging the burned remains of post-fire to save economic value to the forest.

“The U.S. Forest Service has criteria where it allows salvage logging of the burned forest in attempt to salvage the economic value of the trees that were burned,” Ertz said.

Garrity also wrote that habitat after a fire is critical for some animals to survive. Post-fire habitat—called ‘complex early seral forest’—is some of the best wildlife habitat in the forest. one trees, such as the lodgepole pine, will not release their seeds unless they burn.

“Areas of burnt forest habitat are ecological treasures, not catastrophes, and are actually critical for many native wildlife species, such as the rare black-backed woodpecker, to survive,” Garrity wrote.  

Destruction of trees and habitat could potentially soil the clean water bull trout require to live in. Without complex early seral forest, there may be an elimination of bird species that need it to survive.

“Numerous scientific studies document the destructive cumulative impacts of post-fire logging. Those impacts include the elimination of bird species that are most dependent on post-fire habitat,” Garrity wrote.

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